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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH residents highlight the importance of studying suicide

The Isaac Sakinofsky Essay Prize in Suicidology is awarded twice

Each year, CAMH hosts a competition for current psychiatric residents who can win a prize of $1,000 for the best essay on a subject related to suicide or suicidal behaviours. In honour of CAMH’s Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky, who has contributed to the field of suicidoloy since 1961, this award aims to promote the importance of this clinical area of study.

Suicide is a global problem, one that impacts many people; the World Health Organization estimates suicide deaths as numbering one million persons per year. That said, it’s undeniably important for psychiatry residents to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills that will guide them in developing treatments moving forward.

“Usually there is just one prize for the winner, but [the selection committee] decided to award a winner and a runner-up prize this year,” said Dr. Ivan Silver, Vice President of Education at CAMH. “According to our adjudicators, both essays were outstanding.”

Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky himself, who is part of the selection committee, was impressed with the quality of this year’s submissions. “The aim of this essay competition is to kindle interest among our psychiatric residents in suicidology as a branch of psychiatry with a view to improving standards of prevention and care; the committee is proud that these essays absolutely serve that end.”

And the winners are…

This year’s first place winner is Dr. Tyler Kaster, with Dr. Justine Giddens as the runner-up. Both are junior residents (PGY-1’s) who completed their addictions rotations at CAMH.

Dr. Justine Giddens, Dr. Tyler Kaster and Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky
(L to R) Dr. Justine Giddens, Dr. Tyler Kaster, and Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky

Tyler said that when he first heard of the award, he viewed it as an opportunity to focus on an understudied area of psychiatry. His essay, which won him first place, focuses on suicide rates in prison. He suggests that applying a developmental model of suicide to the prison population that’s similar to the one developed for the general population can improve the screening process and therefore the detection of at-risk inmates.

“Winning this award is important for me as I hope it will encourage awareness and dialogue about alarmingly high rates of suicides in prisons,” he said. "My ultimate goal would be for this hypothesis to be tested empirically in the future in an attempt to reduce prison suicide."

Justine focused her essay on the paradigm shift that recognizes suicide as its own entity, distinct from depression or other mental illnesses. It considers that there may be individual predispositions toward suicidal behaviours independent of other illnesses.

“Winning the award is an honour,” she said. “But the meaning comes in the recognition of the importance of studying and understanding suicide in order to help individuals who are suffering.”

Tyler and Justine will be formally awarded at the next CAMH Education Awards celebration in January 2016. Join us in wishing them both sincere congratulations!

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